Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
When the PlayStation 2 launched in 2000 one of its largest selling points was the fact that Konami’s killer-app, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, was slated for an exclusive release on the console. Although players had to wait over a year after the console’s release to get their hands on the game the wait was well worth it, Konami had launched the first true blockbuster on Sony’s next generation console. Now Nintendo is looking to rekindle some of that magic by commissioning Konami to develop another Metal Gear Solid game exclusively for the Nintendo GameCube. Instead of creating an entirely new adventure the guys at Konami outsourced the work to developer Silicon Knights to recreate Metal Gear Solid and bring the classic up to date. And while the end result is labor of love, it’s just not quite as impressive as it once was.
Although the game has an entirely new title, The Twin Snakes is actually a remake of the original PlayStation One classic. Look at is as the special director’s cut of MGS, the way that Hideo Kojima originally intended the game to be. There are a number of changes here that have been instilled to take advantage of advances in modern technology. You’ll receive some of the new gameplay elements that appeared in the sequel, newly shot cut scenes and a complete graphics overhaul but in the end it’s still the same game. Let’s be honest here, the feelings that you had for the original title won’t change. If you hated the original you’ll absolutely loathe this game and if you liked the original you might not find enough incentive to go through it again. You’ll be able to see every single plot twist and every surprise coming from a mile away because, well, you’ve experienced it all before, albeit at a lower resolution.
Twin Snakes puts you into the role of Solid Snake; a retired operative of FOXHOUND who is captured and placed back into duty. At the start of the game a terrorist faction steals the two access codes required to launch a nuclear attack. If their demands aren’t met within 24 hours they’ll utilize their nuclear arsenal. Instead of launching an all-out assault at the risk of provoking the terrorists a secret operative is sent in to sabotage the mission from the inside. Like always everything isn’t what it appears and it turns out that Snake’s old FOXHOUND buddies are behind the whole ordeal and the nukes are just the beginning of their plans. They have the desire to utilize Metal Gear, the giant walking tank that’s been a part of the franchise from the start, for their own devious desires. From there you’ll encounter a cast of over the top enemies, cybernetic ninjas, inept guards and your general assortment of hot babes.
Although you’re essentially playing the same game as you did in 1999 your experience will vary slightly due to the new gameplay inclusions. All of the moves from Sons of Liberty are here including the ability to perform pull-ups in the midst of the battle and the first person mode. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the new additions reinvent the game but the first person mode does make some of the combat easier. It’s especially effective when you’re saddled with one of the game’s numerous inane camera angles and you want to get a glance of the guy off-screen who’s pummeling you with bullets. Konami also decided to get rid of the vanishing bodies so you’ll have to properly hide the bodies or your risk the chance of getting caught. Some of the weapons have also made the transition to this remake including the tranquilizer gun and the sniper rifle. These don’t necessarily change the face of the game but the new additions are a pretty nice way of beefing up the game.
Probably the largest overall change comes from the game’s numerous cut scenes, all of which were redone under the guidance of Ryuhei Kitamura to take advantage of today’s modern motion capture technology. This allowed the designers to incorporate animations and movements that weren’t initially involved in the game’s other motion capturing techniques. You’ll be seeing animations and poses that aren’t necessarily part of the game’s stock animations but are far more realistic. So let’s say you have a girl leaning up against a wall to listen to a conversation in an adjacent room. Instead of utilizing a stock crouching animation and positioning her close to the wall the game actually has her leaning up against the wall and pressing her ear up against it to get closer to the sound. In fact the motion capture work for the cut scenes really deserves some attention and praise. I haven’t seen such beautiful work since Sony’s The Getaway. Although they can be over-the-top and Matrix-like at times they’re always entertaining enough to hold your attention. Of all of the changes I’d say that these are the most dramatic as they treat fans to an entirely revamped experience.
With the good comes the bad and in this case the bad is to the extreme. Probably the weakest aspects of the next generation MGS titles came from the controls and the interface. In previous entries combat was always difficult because of the sluggish nature of the controls; Twin Snakes is no different. Shooting isn’t necessarily the hardest part of the game but orienting yourself towards the enemy definitely is. Regarded, the emphasis of the game is placed on stealth and thus you should be greatly rewarded, but people who just watched Commando the night before picking up the game should be able to unleash hell upon their foes. Some of this problem is alleviated thanks to the new first person mode but that too is flawed. In order to utilize it you need to hold down the Z trigger, position the gun with the analog stick and then press A to fire. Since the analog sticks are highly unstable you find yourself remaning stationary while you're aiming. What you get is a system that’s really ineffective and hearkens back to the days of the Nintendo 64’s Goldeneye where it was acceptable to engage the enemy, stop to aim and then take shots at him. Seriously, it’s pretty ridiculous and should have been reworked during the QA process. At the very least the designers should have employed some sort of targeting mechanism that would help you pick off your foes.
While the shooting mechanism is flawed it has absolutely nothing on the game’s horrendous camera angles. This is a remake; you’re not barred to the technology and constraints of the original so why not call upon some of the advancements that the industry has made? Why not go with 3rd person over the shoulder vantage point like in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell? Sure the games are different in nature but the new camera would have worked wonders when it came to dealing with the game’s horrendous camera system. Eventually I ended up giving up on looking at the game entirely and just focused on the radar system to guide me.
This isn’t to say that the game isn’t still intense. Playing Twin Snakes gives you a pure adrenalin rush that most other games can only dream to deliver. Due to the game’s stealthy nature you find yourself in a heightened state of awareness. You really get into the character, you don’t just play Snake sometimes you feel as if you are Snake. Admit it, there were times when you were a kid and you’d run around the house and pretend that you were some sort of covert ninja. Well Twin Snakes affords you that opportunity at an elevated level. You’ll be peering around corners, sidling around walls and sneaking around with the best of them. There’s something amazing about a game that can make your palms sweat and your heartbeat rise.
As you might expect, the game's visuals have undergone a significant facelift. Structurally everything looks and feels the same way but it’s kind of like having a rusted up ‘67 Nova. Sure it looks like a hunk of junk but slather on a new coat of paint on that puppy and it’ll be gorgeous again. That’s exactly what’s been done with the Twin Snakes. All of the textures have been cleaned up all of the models have been beefed up and the overall game looks pretty much on-par with 2001’s Sons of Liberty. Most of the animations look much cleaner although Snake’s movements are still awkward because the game relies on digital control and lacks movements between running and walking. Snake himself looks like an advanced version of the one that appeared in Sons of Liberty as his suit has a subtle sheen and his flowing hair benefits from some advanced shaders. Some of the texture work really stumbles (especially when you’re looking around in the first person mode) when compared to some of the GameCube’s better looking titles but it’s still visually appealing.
For some strange reason the guys at Silicon Knights thought it was necessary to re-record all of the game’s dialogue. It doesn’t appear that there were any major changes to the script so perhaps the audio engineers just wanted clearer audio samples for all of the game’s audio. In a nice move, the designers were able to bring back most of the game’s primary cast for this second run through the game. As you may expect not too much has changed but there are definitely a few differences. Some of the voices are less ethnic but they lose a bit of their personality. This won’t have too much of an impact on anyone who wasn’t exposed to the first MGS but those who played through it will remember that the accents really made the characters. Now instead of standing out in your mind they really just blend in and become background fodder.
Support has been included for those of you with Dolby Pro Logic II adapters but the utilization is finicky at best. Since the game utilizes an over the top vantage point for most of the time the position audio doesn’t help you too much. Most of the audio samples aren’t quite as clean as they could be either as the volume tends to fluctuate wildly. At times I had to turn up the volume just to hear the in-game dialog but then found myself turning it down after hearing some of the insanely loud sound effects. At least on my system it appears that the audio engineers may have had some trouble finding a middle ground when it came to mixing the audio and decided to leave the samples untouched instead of mixing them down. Again, perhaps this is a problem that only occurs on my system but I went back and booted up Sons of Liberty and these issues weren’t present.
I’ve always said that Metal Gear Solid was an excellent cinematic adventure but a sub-part game and I still stand by that mantra. It’s almost as if the designers came up with a script for a high-octane Hollywood script and decided to turn it into a video game as opposed to shopping it around to the studios. What you get is a game that’s built around a highly engaging storyline but the gameplay simply doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain. If you’re in the mood for some top-notch cut scenes and a compelling storyline you’ve come to the right place, it’s just that you have to trudge through a severely dated game and its boatload of flaws to get to it. Still, even with its problems there’s more than enough reason for fans of the original or those who missed out on the initial bandwagon to pick this up. It’s one of the true classics of video gaming and the true trailblazer of cinematic gaming. Twin Snakes isn’t perfect, but it’s still an engaging experience that you won't want to miss. Besides, it's not like the GameCube is exactly bursting with top-tier titles. What else are you going to play, Pokemon Colosseum?
If youâ€™ve played the original game on the PlayStation One or the PC donâ€™t expect any additions or monumental changes. Every single plot twist, storyline element and character behaves and executes in exactly the same manner as before. So if you know the storyline of the original you know the storyline of the Twin Snakes. This doesnâ€™t mean that the game isnâ€™t worth revisiting though, just make sure that you realize that youâ€™re throwing down for a few gameplay tweaks and a massive graphics overhaul.
Rating: 8.4 Good
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile